“What language do Armenians speak?” This question may arise to many people who are not really acquainted with Armenia and Armenian world. Since Armenia is an ancient country, it’s logical that Armenians have their own language. It is called Armenian language.
Armenian language is the official language of the Republic of Armenia.
It is quite ancient and unique language. Some of you already know many interesting things about Armenia and its rich cultural heritage, but not all of you know about one of the oldest languages in the world, the Armenian language.
So, today we are going to examine such questions as:
- What language do they speak in Armenia?
- What are the historical roots of this language?
- What is special and unique about it?
Also, we are going to talk about some other languages in Armenia that are quite popular.
What language do Armenians speak? The Origin and History of the Armenian Language
Language is the roadmap of a culture.
It tells you where its people came from and where they are going.Rita Mae Brown
Let’s start with one of the most important questions: What language do they speak in Armenia? Armenian (Hayeren) is the official language of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh Republic and has historically been spoken in the Armenian Highlands.
Armenian belongs to a separate branch of the Indo-European languages. It has always been in the centre of attentions of linguists for its distinctive features and characteristics. It has a special position in the family of Indo-European languages.
The latest consists of two branches: Western that includes Latin, Germanic, Greek, Slavic, etc and Eastern that include Persian, Sanskrit, etc.
What makes Armenian language really special is that it is equally related to both of these branches. Many scholars consider Armenian as a bridge and intermediary between Greek and Persian; correspondingly it has a legacy of both Western and Eastern branches.
The Stages and Evolution of the Armenian Language
Now let’s address the following question: What language do Armenians speak now and what they used to speak in ancient times? Armenian is justly considered unique language and is one of the ancient written languages. There isn’t much information about Armenian before it was first written, though Armenians were known to history earlier in the 6th century BC by the help of ancient inscriptions.
It is believed that the ancestors of the Armenians, the inhabitants of Urartu, spoke a language that can’t be classified as Indo-European or Semitic. Yet, it had some connections to the language of the Georgians and to other Caucasian languages.
It is suggested that in the 7th -6th century BC Armenian speaking Indo-European tribe immigrated to the kingdom of Urartu. Although, these two languages in Armenia coexisted side by side for some period, the Armenian language gradually took over the native Urartu. Later on, many borrowings and loan words from Persian and from other Iranian languages led many linguists classify Armenian as a dialect of Persian. Afterwards it was recognized that Armenian is an independent branch.
The Armenian Language from 5th Century
The next epoch of the development of “Hayeren” started at the beginning of the 5th century. The Classical Armenian language “Grabar” was the language of the oldest surviving Armenian-language text, the translation of the Bible by Mesrop Mashtots.
Grabar contains many borrowed words from Parthian, Greek, Syriac, Latin and other languages, moreover ancient Armenian dialects served as a basic ground for Grabar. It was greatly used in Armenian literature; additionally, it remained the language of formal high style literary until the end of the 19th century.
Armenians are very proud of this truly original and unique innovation. The next stage of the Armenian language that fell on the 11th century is known as Middle Armenian (Mijin Hayeren). It was the language of poetry, books on agriculture and medicine. But, gradually, Middle Armenian changed into New Armenian that was spoken in the 17th century.
Armenian language: What Language Do Armenians Speak Now?
After all these historical overviews a question may arise, like: What language do Armenians speak now?
There are many historic reasons for this split into two forms. Namely, the main reason was the division of Armenia between the Russian and Ottoman Empires. Western Armenia was formed by the Armenians who lived under Ottoman rule and gradually moved to Constantinople.
As for Eastern Armenia, it was developed among Armenians living under Russian rule who moved to Tbilisi, in Georgia. We can note that now Western Armenian is spoken mainly by the Armenian Diaspora, such as in Turkey, some Arab countries, USA, Italy, France, etc.
Going back to the question of “what language do they speak in Armenia now” we should mark that it is Eastern Armenian. What concerns to this language is that it’s prevailing in Armenia, Georgia, Iran, ex-USSR republics, besides it is the official language of the country.
Although, Western and Eastern Armenian share the same vocabulary, they have some significant grammatical and pronunciation differences and sometimes may be viewed as two different languages. In brief, Eastern Armenian’s pronunciation is more accurate, whereas the spelling system and orthography of Western Armenian is corresponding to the original Armenian alphabet.
What Language Do They Speak in Armenia? Other Languages in Armenia
It is considered that in the 21st century Hayeren, that is to say the Armenian language is spoken by about 6.7 million individuals. The country is ethnically homogeneous; correspondingly the majority of its population speaks Armenian, the official language of the country.
However, let us now concentrate on the languages in Armenia that are also widely spoken and popular. By far the main and best known foreign languages in Armenia are Russian and English. In consequence of political and historical events, Russian is one of the most popular foreign languages in Armenia.
It is not a surprise, as in the Soviet period Russian was widely spread in Soviet Armenia and till today this fact has its influence.
Other Languages in Armenia
Along with English there are several other languages that are studied and used at schools and universities. There are Russian, American and French Universities in Yerevan.
The minority languages in Armenia that are recognized by Armenian government are Kurdish, Assyrian, Greek and Russian. Kurdish is the main minority language in Armenia that is spoken by about 33.000 citizens of Armenia.
So, as you can see, in this material we tried to raise such major and important questions as: What language do Armenians speak; what is the greatest importance of this language; what are the popular foreign languages in Armenia. But all these shows only the little part of the uniqueness of the Armenian language.
In conclusion, we can just add that the Armenian language, as its nation, is truly noble. As Russian poet and essayist Osip Mandelshtam noted. “The Armenian language cannot be worn out; its boots are stone. Well, certainly, the thick-walled words, the layers of air in the semi-vowels”.
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